Top 10 Best Retro Game Sequels/Spin-Offs (No. 5-1)

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NO. 5 – The Curse of Monkey Island (1997, Windows)

Having to decide which LucasArts adventure game is your favorite is a rather difficult task, mainly due to how they all have something that can appeal to everyone. But after doing some long and hefty pondering, I can say for certain that this isn’t just the best game in the Monkey Island saga nor is it just the best LucasArts adventure game, but it’s also one of the best computer games ever made. Aside from the humor and visuals being spot-on, the puzzles are amongst some of the best in the entire adventure game genre, never once feeling tedious or annoying while also requiring a good amount of skill and thinking. The characters are also just as lovable as ever, from the heroic yet somewhat inept Guybrush, the villainous LeChuck, and the feisty Elaine. Suffice to say, it’s games like these that prove just how important LucasArts was to the industry. The Curse of Monkey Island: Aaargh, now this be a game worth as much as gold!

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NO. 4 – Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (1997, PS1)

It’s impossible to imagine where the PlayStation would be had the Crash Bandicoot games never came into fruition, and boy does the second game really enforce that. In addition to featuring some of the most memorable level themes as well as the best music in the entirety of the franchise, Cortex Strikes Back takes everything about the first game, both good and bad, and literally improves on them by tenfold, such as the visuals, the difficulty, the boss fights, and the level design, making for one heck of a 3D platformer. The reason why I chose this game over Warped is because that while Warped is undeniably great, it’s kind of erratic and overall doesn’t have that much of an emphasis on platforming when compared to the previous two games. Regardless, the original trilogy is still one that every platforming enthusiast should play at least once. Crash Bandicoot 2: Only a orange marsupial with jeans could spin into wooden crates and make it seem awesome and not painful.

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NO. 3 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (1991/1992, Arcade/SNES)

Back when they were Saturday morning overlords, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were utterly killing it in the licensed game department. But when you ask a long-time fan what was the best video game to ever be spawned from the franchise, there’s a 99% chance that it’ll be this one. Turtles in Time is an absolute thrill-ride from start to finish, combining frantic beat ’em up gameplay with a magnificent soundtrack, well-implemented co-op, and boss fights that are epic in every aspect of the word. It’s not perfect, of course – the hit detection can be spotty at times, and it might take a bit to get used to the control scheme, but they don’t manage to damper the experience. Turtles in Time: As the Heroes in a Half-Shell would say themselves, COWABUNGA!

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NO. 2 – Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992, Genesis)

If there’s a game that proves just how much of an unstoppable force Sega was back in the 90’s, Sonic 2 would most certainly be it. Not only does it put a larger emphasis on speed than its’ predecessor, but it also marked the introduction of vital elements in the franchise, such as the spin dash, Super Sonic, and of course, Tails. Each zone utterly oozes with charm, from the lush Emerald Hill, the bustling Casino Night, the tranquil Hill Top, to the gloriously automatic Metropolis. The soundtrack is also fantastic, with each and every one of the zones and their songs fitting together like two peas in a pod. Finally, the boss fights are easily the most memorable in the entire franchise, especially the Death Egg Robot. Needless to say, Sega games don’t get any better than this. Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Being this fast has never been so much fun.

Before we get to No. 1, I’d like to ask one little question: Have any of you ever wondered what my favorite game of all time is? If so, it’s your lucky day, because that’s exactly what you are about to find out…

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NO. 1 – Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Wow, a Mario game, let alone a Nintendo game, being at No. 1 in a “Top 10 Best” list related to video games? How shocking! In all honesty though, I can’t help myself. Legend of the Seven Stars is such an enormous triumph, it’s hard to even find a starting point to list off my compliments. The visuals and overworld are outstanding, packed to the brim with color, vibrancy, and secrets. The battle system and the boss fights as a whole are excellent, offering many unique ideas and concepts. The characters are all memorable, from the mysterious Geno, the childlike Mallow, to the delightfully hammy Axel Rangers. The soundtrack is mind-blowing, showing atmosphere, intensity, and wonder. The overall storyline is incredibly engaging, putting the Mushroom Kingdom as well as the entire world at higher stakes than ever before. Like I said, this game is so awesome that it’s insanely difficult to put in everything that’s great about it into a format like this. Super Mario RPG: The No. 1 BEST Retro Game Sequel/Spin-Off of all time…

And that’s all I’ve got for the Top 10 Best Retro Game Sequels/Spin-Offs. If you have any that your favorite, be sure to leave them in the comments section below, Thanks for reading, and remember: Stay retr0!

THE END

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Top 10 Best Retro Game Sequels/Spin-Offs (No. 10-6)

Nowadays, when something happens to generate a lot of praise and success, chances are it’s going to get the living bejesus milked out of it, for better or for worse. And while the medium of video games are not safe from this rule by any means, it’s actually very frequent to see a sequel or spin-off that can be just as good, if not better than its’ predecessor. With this list, I intend to gather up the best of the best,and even shine the spotlight on the lesser-known ones. And now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Top 10 Best Retro Game Sequels/Spin-Offs.

RULES:

-A franchise can appear on this list twice, but one of the games must be a sequel while the other is a spin-off.

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NO. 10 – Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble (1996, SNES)

As you all probably know by now, I’m not exactly what you would call a “big fan” of the original DKC. Putting aside the fact that it would later go on to spawn one of the worst cartoons that I’ve ever seen in my entire life, it’s a generally bland and mediocre platformer that feels like it was successful only because of at the time groundbreaking 3D visuals. With that said, its’ follow-ups are a major step forward, and I can easily say that the third game is my favorite out of the original trilogy. Not only has the art style reached its’ peak, but the level design is also less tedious and even throws in some creative ideas here and there. Granted, it still has some flaws that cannot go unaddressed. The boss fights have disappointingly reverted to being quite forgettable (At least in how they play out. Their designs are creepy as hell) and easy, and the level design can still feel somewhat uninspired at times. But even with that in mind, I still find this game to be a really solid experience. Returns and Tropical Freeze are still the best games in the series, though. Donkey Kong Country 3: Now this is something worth going bananas over!

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NO. 9 – Earthworm Jim 2 (1995, Genesis/SNES)

With its’ sleek and fluid visuals and sprite animations, delightfully bizarre humor, creative level design, and top-notch run and gun gameplay, Earthworm Jim was one of those games that more or less defined games in the 90’s. And even though it did prove to be the only truly great installment in the franchise (at least in my opinion), that’s not to say that it’s sequel doesn’t manage to hold a candle. The level design, while being significantly more linear, is just as out-of-the-box as ever, continuing the original’s trend of making set-pieces based around the basic theme of a stage. And that’s not even mentioning the tremendous amount of variety between each of the stages – for instance, at one point you could be bouncing puppies to safety with a giant marshmallow, and at another you could be a salamander floating around some kind of underwater abyss blasting sheep. In addition, the tone, which wasn’t even slightly grounded in reality to begin with, has doubled down on the comedic aspects, providing laugh-a-minute gags every step of the way, in addition to what is quite possibly the funniest ending to a video game, ever.   The character spritework and animations are also great, though I still think the first game looks better. Regardless, all of these add up to make what is one groovy sequel. Earthworm Jim 2: This is one can of worms that you won’t regret opening.

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NO. 8 – Knuckles Chaotix (1995, 32X)

Having been through what can best be described as a LOT of stuff, the Sonic franchise has had a handful of titles released in it gone mostly unnoticed. However, that’s not to see that they’re lacking in quality (for the most part), and this game sure as heck isn’t. Centered around the titular echidna who, unlike Sonic, would rather flex his muscles than chuckle, Knuckles Chaotix takes the formula of the original Genesis trilogy while also adding in ideas of its’ own in order to make it its’ own unique, separate experience. First off, there’s the central mechanic/gimmick of the game, in which two characters are connected to each other through a ring. Admittedly, it’s not executed perfectly – it takes a while to get used to it at first, and it can kind of get a little annoying. However, once you do get used to it, that’s when the game starts to get fun. Even though it’s not as tight as the Genesis trilogy, the level design offers plenty of things to keep your attention while never straying too far away from the usual Sonic formula. The graphics are also extremely vivid in nature, being what might just be the closest a retro game has gotten to being a psychedelic trip, the special stages notwithstanding. As for the boss fights, they’re not as challenging as the ones in 3&K or as memorable as the ones in 2, but they get the job done nonetheless. Knuckles Chaotix: Maybe Sonic’s friends deserve more credit than they get after all.

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NO. 7 – DuckTales 2 (1993, NES)

The original DuckTales, while a perfectly decent game, was one that I kind of find to be somewhat overrated. Although it does have some neat level design and gameplay, it was rather unambitious in style and was a bit too short. The sequel on the other hand doesn’t just fix those problems, but also improves exponentially on the aforementioned compliments. With the level design taking on a slightly more open approach in addition to the removal of the timer, the gameplay offers plenty of secrets to be found while at the same time balancing it with a linear style. The visuals have also been improved, showing a more detailed and polished flair within the backgrounds and spritework. If there is one problem that I have, it’s that the soundtrack isn’t as good as the one in the first game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fine, but a lot of the tracks lack the “memorability” as the ones in the first game. DuckTales 2: This ain’t no ponytails or cottontails, alright.

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NO. 6 – Star Fox 2 (1995, SNES)

With its’ usage of the Super FX chip, intriguing characters, and a George Lucas-esque space fantasy setting, the original Star Fox was easily one of the most groundbreaking titles to ever be released for the SNES. In fact, it was such a hit that a direct sequel was planned to released, though it was ultimately canceled in favor of the then-in-development N64. And it’s kind of a shame too, cause it’s actually really great. Not only have the already-impressive graphics stepped into mind-blowing territory, but the gameplay has also been expanded by at least five times the size of the original, putting an even larger emphasis on space combat and exploration, both of which are handled near-perfectly. There’s also the soundtrack, which is amongst one of the best that I’ve ever heard in an SNES game. In addition, there’s also new characters such as Fay and Miyu, both of whom fit perfectly into the Star Fox franchise and are (CONTROVERSIAL OPINION ALERT) way more interesting characters than Krystal. To be honest, I actually find this game to be the best in the series, and had it ever came out, it would’ve easily been regarded as a must-have. I love 64 and all, but I think that Nintendo really should’ve used what they had here and translated it onto the N64. Star Fox 2: The canceled game to end all canceled games.

To be continued…

SYSTEM SMACK-DOWN: Animaniacs (SNES/Genesis/Game Boy)

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Back when they actually gave two craps about the industry, Konami were one of the most beloved developers/publishers of the classic age, with a resume of titles such as Metal Gear, Contra, and Rocket Knight Adventures. However, like many other video game corporations, they also had their fair share of licensed games, some of them good, and others being throughly mediocre. And seeing as how I already covered a few games by them in the past, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to take a look at yet another one, that of which being a game based off of the most beloved cartoons to ever come out of the nineties, Animaniacs.

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Seeing as how I’ve already covered a fair share of licensed Konami titles, some good, and some bad, how does this one stack up? Let’s find out, shall we?

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ROUND ONE: THE LOOKS

In what seems to be a running gag whenever I do a Konami game in these articles, the SNES version offers the best translation of the show’s style into a video game format. Not only is the spritework of the characters 100% spot-on, but the backgrounds are delightfully varied and vibrant, offering one of the most lively games to ever come out on the SNES. The Genesis and Game Boy versions, while still good-looking, don’t exactly manage to hold a candle. Despite some smoother and arguably more detailed animations and backgrounds, they kind of lack the charm of the SNES version. So, I’ll be crowning the SNES as the victor.

ROUND TWO: THE SOUND

While the SNES may have won with great success in the previous round, that doesn’t mean it’ll carry over to the other ones. And in this case, the Genesis version easily has the best sound. Don’t get me wrong, the SNES version still has a good amount of decently catchy tunes, but none that I would really classify as “memorable”. The Genesis version on the other hand takes those verbs with profound grace, being pure ear candy in every sense of the word, with the music fitting each and every stage that you’ll find yourself in. Heck, in some cases they even mix up tunes from the show! As for the Game Boy version’s soundtrack, it’s alright, though it’s more or less a downgraded edition of the one from the Genesis. With that said, the GENESIS wins this one.

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ROUND THREE: THE GAMEPLAY

After a temporary victory by the Genesis, the SNES has managed to come back with a vengeance. Getting the Genesis and Game Boy versions out of the way, they can best be summed up as dull, mediocre platformers that don’t really bring anything new to the table. While the controls are fine, the relentless tediousness of the level design really brings them both down, ESPECIALLY in the Game Boy version. Now as for the SNES version, it’s sort of a challenge to really describe the way that it plays. The best way that I can, however, is something of an isometric side-scrolling platformer with a few arcade elements thrown in for good measure. There’s simply way too many things to praise here; the tight controls, the sheer amount of variety between levels, the scale of the aforementioned levels, the balance between the platforming and arcade elements, the fast pacing, practically everything was given to people who really wanted to give it their all. If there is one little quibble that I have, it would have to be the fact that in order to free one of the captive Warner Siblings, you have to play this rather obnoxious mini-game. Still, without question, the SNES is the champion.

THE RETR0PIA RANKINGS:

SNES: A-

GENESIS: C-

GAME BOY: D

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AND VICTORY GOES TO…THE SNES VERSION!

The Junction Point Games That Never Were

Back in June, I did an article covering the history of the now ironically pretty much forgotten Junction Point. Having been founded by veteran game developer Warren Spector, the studio had found itself brought out by Disney after they had signed a deal to create a game that put a darker twist on the mouse that started it all. Under the name of Epic Mickey, the aforementioned game underwent a MAJOR tonal shift just when it was beginning to reach the finishing line of its’ development, which ultimately had a factor in it not exactly being the breakout hit that Disney hoped it would be. The sequel on the other hand performed even worse, which ended up in Junction Point being shuttered and Spector leaving Disney, which also ended up in the cancellation of two projects that were in the pipeline, both of which I’ll be covering in this article.

First off, we’ll be taking a look at the project that arguably had the most potential out of the two, Epic Donald.

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From what we can see by the details and artwork shared by one of the members on the project, ED was set to be a spin-off of the EM games, as well as being radically different from it in every way imaginable. Aside from taking a lighter route both in tone and presentation, the whole game was essentially going to be a tribute to comic books that featured the character, most notably the ones by the late great Carl Barks. It was also going to have a more open-world approach, with the town of Duckburg having been planned to be fully explorable, whether it be on flipper or on wheels. Unfortunately, the game was unable to make it past the brainstorming phase, as its’ development was only a good number of months prior to Junction Point’s closure. However, the aforementioned member has stated that he hopes to see the project come to fruition with the announcement of the new DuckTales series, which is set to premiere in 2017.

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at another planned EM spin-off, this time by the name of Epic Disney Racers.

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Unlike the aforementioned Epic Donald, there isn’t that much info on this game other than the characters, stages, and mechanics that were planned to be featured. From what we can see from the concept artwork, characters such as Scrooge McDuck and Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Oswald were planned to be featured, and locations from some of the most beloved films in the animated canon were set to be tracks, with Agrabah apparently being one of them. Each character was also going to have their own special attack, whether it be Oswald’s remote or money bags for Scrooge. There was even going to be some sort of mechanic were two characters share a vehicle, not dissimilar to the likes of Mario Kart: Double Dash or Crash Tag Team Racing. Like I said earlier, there’s not that much info on the development of this game, though a page for it on the EM Wiki says that it was most likely sent to the Wasteland early on in development.

And that about does it for the two Junction Point games that never were. Looking back on the history of the studio, it’s kind of depressing to see how everything turned out the way it did, especially when Mr. Spector had big plans for it, if these two projects are anything to go by. But then again, sometimes fate just has different ideas in mind.

What are your thoughts on the two unmade Junction Point titles? Be sure to leave your opinions in the comments section below, and thanks for reading!

REVIEW: Little Samson (1992, NES)

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Despite having a pivotal role in the history of games, Taito is one of those companies that for some reason, no one ever seems to talk about anymore. Because of this, many titles developed and published by them have went under the radar, one of which is the subject of today’s article.

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Released for the NES in 1992, Little Samson revolves around a young boy (who is also the titular character), a dragon, a rock golem, and a mouse, each with their own unique ability, and their efforts to save a mythical kingdom from the threat of an evil prince. Is this game truly bigger than what its’ title implies, or is it better off staying in obscurity? Let’s find out, shall we?

THE LOOKS: It goes without saying that some of the NES’ more forgotten titles are…”lacking” in the visual department, to say the least. With this game however, I can easily say that it’s one of the best looking games to ever come out in the entire 8-bit era. For a game that was released fairly late into its’ console’s lifespan, many of the backgrounds, character sprites, and the general aesthetic are just pure eye candy, helping to invoke the intended “mythical kingdom” feeling with great success. If there is one problem that I have with the graphics, it’s that the sprites of the four protagonists don’t really contrast that will with some of the more “detailed” ones.

THE SOUND: I might have a lot of great things to say about the visuals, but I can’t really say the same for the soundtrack. It’s kind of difficult to describe how I feel about it; it’s not abhorrently godawful, but it’s not mind-blowingly spectacular either; it’s just, for the most part, kind of forgettable, thus not really giving me anything to work with.

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THE GAMEPLAY: In concept, the gameplay offers a somewhat unique take on the action-platform genre, given that you have four characters at your disposal that you can switch between at any given time. Despite this, unfortunately, it still can’t save the gameplay from feeling rather derivative from other platformers at the time, most notably the classic Mega Man games. Not only do various bits and pieces of the level design feel ripped straight out of them, but placement of the enemies and even the controls feel like that too. Granted, it’s not all bad. Even if it is uninspired at times, the levels can actually be pretty enjoyable. Sadly, those moments aren’t very frequent.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Little Samson is an average platformer that has some cool ideas, but ultimately ends up making you feel rather blank. If you’re a fan of the Mega Man games or platformers in general, that I guess you might enjoy it. As for everyone else, I’d suggest that you look somewhere else.

THE RETR0PIA RANKING: C+

Drop Everything That You’re Doing And Watch The Gamescom Yooka-Laylee Trailer

(I apologize for the lack of content lately. School has reared its’ head once more, and I’m currently going through orientation week. The next review should be uploaded by this weekend, so please bare with me.)

Back in May, I did a report on a wreath of information that Playtonic Games laid out to the public on their debut title, Yooka-Laylee, a modern day re-vamp of the 3D platform collectathon sub-genre. Having survived an arduous pre-development phase as well as what was seemingly a permanent cancellation, the title had unexpectedly burst through the grave in early-to-mid 2015, with a ridiculously successful Kickstarter, a backer-exclusive test map, and much much more having come forth since, the latest of which being a trailer that has recently premiered at this year’s Gamescom.

While there admittedly aren’t that many reveals in comparison to the aforementioned E3 trailer and info bomb, the ones that can be seen are still worth talking about nonetheless. For starters, we’re given a glimpse at one of the many forms that the duo can turn into with the help of Dr. Puzz, which is a plow truck. In this form, the duo can break through obstacles that hinder their access to certain items that are a necessity to collection throughout the game, as well as secret areas. We’re also shown (albeit rather brief) footage of what is most likely the beginning cinematic of the game, as well as never-before-seen abilities. Oh, and remember when Playtonic discussed the possibility of one of the abilities involving a fart bubble? Well, as it turns out, they’re actually implementing one. Apparently, it lets you breathe underwater for a longer period of time (at least that’s what it seems like to me), but we’ll just have to wait to see how it exactly works. All in all, this is shaping up to be what could quite possibly be, at least in my eyes, one of the greatest platformers of all time, 3D, 2D, or otherwise. The collectathon sub-genre is one that has practically neared the brink of extinction, though many are engaging in valiant attempts to revive it. However, I feel as if this game could be the one that truly sparks a “renaissance” for it, and maybe even give big time publishers a wake-up call that there still is a place for it, regardless of what all of the soulless, cookie-cutter edgefests and F2P mobile garbage say otherwise.

What are your thoughts towards the Yooka-Laylee Gamescom trailer? Be sure to leave your thoughts and opinions below, and thanks for reading!

COMING SOON: Top 10 Best Retro Game Sequels/Spin-Offs

When something becomes wildly popular, it’s only a matter of time before the creators or owners of the aforementioned thing start getting dollar bills for eyes. This is nothing new, though – in fact, it’s been going on for decades upon end, with practically everyone in the entertainment industry jumping to the call to make the next big franchise, and the world of video games is without question no stranger to this practice. In a few weeks, I will be starting production on a two-part list highlighting some of the greatest sequels and spin-offs to ever be released during the Classic Age of Gaming. As for a release date, I’m not quite sure on that just yet, but I hope to get it out by at least the end of fall. Thanks for reading as always, and be sure to stay tuned!